Ten quick thoughts on the Carolina Panthers’ 45-21 trouncing of Miami on Monday night:
1. The definition of insanity...
Carolina found early success when quarterback Cam Newton targeted speedy pass-catching back Christian McCaffrey in space against Miami’s linebackers. McCaffrey juked Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso on a short pass and gained 19 yards on Carolina’s opening series. But the Panthers saw little gain early, once again, when trying to send McCaffrey up the gut as a traditional back.
With McCaffrey’s 19-yard catch, he broke the franchise record for receiving yards by a running back in a season (the team hasn’t even had its bye week yet). The previous, 425, was held by Jonathan Stewart.
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2. Fool me once...
McCaffrey got Alonso to bite a second time, and scampered around the linebacker in the second quarter for Carolina’s first touchdown of the night, which put the Panthers up 10-0.
McCaffrey also caught a touchdown pass in the third quarter to put Carolina up 38-0, making Monday night his first two-touchdown NFL game.
3. Cam Newton sprints, passes and shimmies
Newton played one of his best games of the year on Monday night, completing 21 of 35 pass attempts for 254 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 95 yards on five carries, including a 69-yard breakaway on a zone read play, after which he summed up the Panthers’ evening by shimmying with his back flat against the grass.
4. Stewart finds some momentum
In the second quarter, lead back Jonathan Stewart broke off several nice runs, including a 12-yard tiptoe up the sideline and an 18-yard run up the middle that became his longest of the season. He broke his previous season-high of 68 yards in a game, too, breaking 100 rushing yards with 10:15 left to play.
The season-high was great momentum for Stewart, who fumbled twice last week against Atlanta. It also helped Carolina to a second consecutive game with 200 rushing yards for the first time in franchise history.
5. Seymour/Worley rotation continues
Panthers cornerback Daryl Worley expressed to the Observer last week his frustration with the coaching staff’s decision to rotate him with corner Kevon Seymour, who was traded to Carolina from Buffalo just before the season began.
After starting the game, Worley was replaced by Seymour, but the latter appeared to have the wind knocked out of him on a hard hit and had to exit the game. A few plays later, Worley was flagged for unnecessary roughness after his counterpart, James Bradberry, gave up a catch. That will likely not help Worley’s case moving forward.
6. Pressure on Cutler
Led by defensive tackle Kawann Short and defensive end Charles Johnson, Carolina’s front seven got great pressure on Miami quarterback Jay Cutler early in the game. In fact, the Panthers hassled Miami so thoroughly that the Dolphins did not cross midfield until late in the second quarter.
When Miami did cross, they switched their game plan to a series of quick out-passes to get the ball out of Cutler’s hands rapidly, and ultimately scored on a little shovel pass to tight end Julius Thomas.
7. Luuuuuuuke has the answer
Kuechly was a half-step away from preventing Miami’s touchdown, just barely missing Thomas. But the middle linebacker made up for it shortly after, intercepting Cutler on a stellar read with 41 seconds left in the half.
The pick was Kuechly’s third of the year, and the team’s fourth in three games. It set up a Panthers touchdown that sent Carolina into the locker room up 17-7 at that half.
8. Dickson gets his moment
Just two weeks before the scheduled return of Carolina’s starting Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, backup Ed Dickson, who has been filling Olsen’s shoes while the latter has been on injured reserve, scored his first touchdown of the year.
The 7-yard score came just before halftime, on a slick play that drew two defenders toward McCaffrey as he peeled outside, while Dickson cut toward the end zone.
9. Funchess breaks the dry spell
Devin Funchess scored on a 28-yard catch-and run (featuring two massive downfield blocks by McCaffrey and left tackle Matt Kalil), and became the first Panthers wide receiver to score a touchdown at Bank of America Stadium this season.
Funchess liked his first touchdown so much, he went back for another in the fourth quarter to push the Panthers’ lead to 45-14.
10. Artis-Payne puts it away
Backup running back Cameron Artis-Payne found a lane behind third-string center Greg Van Roten (backup Tyler Larsen went out with a foot injury) and scored a 12-yard touchdown. It was his first of the year – but Newton still made him stick to the team’s tradition of giving the ball away to a fan in the front row of the stadium.